Freakonomics on prevention

A recent post on the Freakonomics blog questions the effectiveness of substance abuse prevention programs.

Do school-based prevention programs work?
The author begins with, "A large body of research has shown that the vast majority of [school-based] programs have largely been ineffective . . . only six of 52 high-quality programs have been able to show results." Though stated in the negative, this means that we know of six school-based programs that are effective, Life Skills Training being one of them. Thomas Edison is quoted as saying, "I have not failed. I just found 10,000 ways that won't work," when discussing his many attempts to create a working light-bulb. We can use what we know does work by implementing tested and effective programs and building on them.

The same goes for the author's pronouncement that only a few parenting programs and social norms marketing campaigns work.

What about alcohol advertising?
On the positive side, the author notes, " . . . some studies, particularly those that track subjects over time, have shown that less [alcohol] advertising does work, particularly for the young . . . " He goes on to state, "However, we are unlikely to see less advertising, particularly if we wait for the alcohol industry to take the lead; self-regulation initiatives have not led to results in the past. Ironically, responsible drinking education programs produced by the alcohol industry have been shown to sometimes have the exact opposite of the (presumably) intended effect: they actually promote positive views about alcohol and its makers."